06/03/2016 14:29 EDT | Updated 06/04/2017 01:12 EDT

Quebec lawyer Paul St-Pierre Plamondon joins PQ leadership race

MONTREAL — A rank outsider who describes himself as someone who became disillusioned with federalism joined the Parti Quebecois leadership race Friday and wasted little time in criticizing the party he wants to take over.

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, 39, became the fifth candidate to succeed Pierre Karl Peladeau as permanent PQ leader.

"The Parti Quebecois was once a great party," he said. "A party that believed in democracy and believed in people's intelligence as the engine of democracy."

The lawyer and political essayist has never held a seat in the legislature and will have a tough time outmuscling former cabinet ministers Alexandre Cloutier, Veronique Hivon, Martine Ouellet and Jean-Francois Lisee to become leader.

During his campaign launch, St-Pierre Plamondon said he would not hold an independence referendum in his first mandate if elected premier in 2018. He would then hold public consultations in the second mandate to determine whether the population is interested.

"People feel the Parti Quebecois cares more about the date of the referendum than the common good," he said.

"It's a big mistake to force people into a debate."

St-Pierre Plamondon said he became disillusioned with federalism around the time of the federal sponsorship scandal.

"I was a lawyer back then and there are events that stand out in your life that make you change opinion," he said. 

Peladeau resigned from the leadership position last month because of family reasons.

The PQ will announce its new leader Oct. 7.